Author’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles advocating that people and their organizations adopt the S.M.A.R.T. Email Credo. The Credo focuses on the sender’s role in the email overload problem. Better sender behavior reduces the time spent by and the stress on recipients when handling email.
Why Does This Matter?
We currently spend 2.8 hours per day handling email (Basex, Inc.). Global use of email is growing 13% per year and will continue to do so through at least 2016 (Radacati Group). We are overwhelmed with email volumes and the situation is getting worse (Wall Street Journal).
How Can Email Production be Reduced?
The email overload problem begins with email production. Senders produce the email that recipients must process. Some of this email is spam, some is informational (newsletters) and promotional, but most of it is produced by you and me – people using email to communicate.
Much of the email we create is “good” email – it serves a productive purpose. Some of the email we produce is “bad” email – it serves no productive purpose. Further, some of the instances in which we use email and some of specific mechanics we employ when sending email are ineffective and inefficient.
Senders who adopt the S.M.A.R.T. Email Credo will reduce email volumes and improve the effectiveness of this vital form of global communication.
What is the S.M.A.R.T. Email Credo?
The S.M.A.R.T. menmonic, normally associated with goal setting, means something different here:
- Subject line
- Message formatting
- Recipient focused
- Time usage
Each of the next several articles will focus on one particular part of the Credo.
What does the S stand for?
The S in S.M.A.R.T. stands for subject line. The email subject line is something every recipient sees. Yet, it is woefully underemployed by senders. Vast amounts of information can be communicated by crafting effective subject lines. The following recommendations are made to maximize the power of the subject line:
a. Naming Conventions: People, teams, department and organizations can develop subject line naming conventions. A naming convention is a set of requirements for insertion into the subject line. Examples include clients and matters, subjects and topics, file names and numbers, summary descriptions, deliverables requested, deadlines to be met. Consider this convention:
[Client/Matter]: [Subject/Topic] – [3-Word Summary] – [Deliverables] – [Deadline]
b. Message Shorthand: Because email is text-based, there are a number of shorthand conventions that people/organizations can agree to use. One is abbreviations that communicate succinct points – like those used in texting. Abbreviations can be used in the subject line or as a preface to what follows in the email. Examples include:
- EOM = End of Message – used in the subject line to tell the recipient that the entire message is embodied in the subject line itself.
- NRN = No Reply Necessary – the sender is stating that no response is expected.
- FYI = For Your Information – used at the beginning of the subject line or just ahead of the forwarded information. Note, a best practice is to include a brief statement about the relevance of the information being forwarded. For example: FYI – The paragraph about industry sales trends.
- PRF = Please Read and File – used to communicate among team members to ensure everyone stays abreast of the flow of information and to direct what should happen after the recipient has read the content of the email.
These examples demonstrate what could be a substantial list of shorthand ways to communicate among team members and throughout the organization.
What Can I Do?
- You can be part of the solution.
- You can adopt one or more of the suggestions above.
- You can promote these suggestions to others on your team and in your organization.
By leveraging the subject line in your emails more effectively, your communications will be clearer and require less “handling” by your recipients.
Next month we focus on Message Formatting to communicate more efficiently to recipients.